Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Punjab yet to catch RTI spirit

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 11, 2006

Punjab yet to catch RTI spirit 


Posted online: Monday, July 10, 2006 at 0000 hours IST


The government has issued the Punjab Right to Information Rules under the RTI Act and appointed a former chief secretary, Rajan Kashyap, as chief information commissioner but questions have been raised over its implementation.Opposition MP Navjot Singh Sidhu complains of not getting information he sought on spending in the Amritsar Municipal Corporation (he’s the city MP) despite writing to the CIC. “if an MP can’t access information on his area under the RTI, what about the common man? No norms or procedures have been highlighted to make people aware of their right and its usage,” he says.

Two cases which have gone upto the courts reflect the government’s attitude to parting with information. In one, two police officials convicted of abduction and murder, in separate cases, had been subsequently pardoned by government order. That was challenged in the high court, through a public-interest suit. The petitioner applied for the files concerned through the RTI. The government simply refused, telling the HC, “since the records were of a highly confidential nature, these cannot be produced.” The HC has overruled this argument and directed the information be given at the next hearing.

In the second, which has gone upto the Supreme Court, a state civil service examination candidate used the RTI to inspect the state public service commission records. He was refused and applied to the high court, which permitted his plea. The state has now gone to the Supreme Court, asking for a rejection of the HC order.

Observers concede the Act has to be implemented in the right spirit, but add that people have to learn how to exercise their rights effectively. The RTI is a needed help on this count.

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